Flamingos, flamingos everywhere. When you land in Cagliari you find these exotic tropical birds crowded onto one of the biggest Europe’s lagoons, the Laguna di Santa Gilla, next to the airport.
Spring is the perfect time to be here; when thousands of chicks, called ‘pulle’, are just few weeks old. It’s a time of year when Cagliari, the small, cosmopolitan capital of Sardinia, is pinker than ever.
Cagliari is a destination that delivers the ingredients for a perfect vacation – culture, history, and sea.
If you want to see the flamingos close-up, the biggest European community of this African bird is in the ponds close to Cagliari. So visit Molentargius Lake, just behind Poetto Beach – a clean and gorgeous city beach.
Renowned author DH Lawrence loved this city. He saw a very different Cagliari: ‘Sardinia is like freedom itself,’ he used to say. This is still true, but now the capital is not ‘nothing finished, nothing definitive’, as observed by Lawrence. The Cagliari of today is a vibrant city where almost all year round, people go to the beach for rollerblading, running or just drinking a coffee. The Sardinian capital also hosts a gay club – Go Fish – and some gay bars, such as Rainbow and, in summer, Fico d’India and Chiringuito. Two gay beaches can also be found nearby: Cala Mosca and Mari Pintau.
The city’s quartieri or precincts have simple names: Marina, Castello, Quartiere del Sole, San Benedetto, and so on. Under the stars, you can drink a local beer at micro-brewery Birrificio di Cagliari. Drinking here gives you a free history lesson on Cagliari’s city centre. Beers on offer take the name of historical neighborhoods, Casteddu (the Castel), Biddanoa (new town), Marina (Marina) and Stampaxi.
When you are almost drunk, head off to the Bastione, an old terrace over the Golfo degli Angeli, the gulf of Cagliari, and next to the cathedral and to the Savoia’s palace. Here young people gather in the evenings to sing and play the guitar under the stars.
The local breakfast is milk and pane carasau. This is a traditional flatbread, thin and crisp, usually in the form of a dish half a meter wide. It is the traditional Sardinian Flatbread and eaten almost everyday.
The Marina is the district of artisan shops and pedestrian streets. Here you’ll find shops selling the Sardinian carnival masks.
With thousands of plants, the Orto Botanico is worth a visit. It’s one of the most famous botanical gardens in Italy and contains some 2,000 species of Mediterranean origin, but with a good collection of succulents and tropical plants as well.
A short journey from Cagliari will take you to the Stagno del Giunco, near Villasimius, a coastal village in the South-East of Sardinia. The road is a mule track, but the seascape is magnificent. Cala Regina, Mari Pintau, Solanas, Kala e’ Moru, Baia Azzurra – wonderful sandy beaches adorn the coast like pearls.
For more flamingo watching, head to Villasimius. Here the scenario is superb – a pond, then a beach, then a promontory with a medieval tower overlooking the sea.
Where to eat
- Eat at Trattoria Ristorante Lapola or Da Lillicu or perhaps Trattoria Ci Pensa Cannas.
- The best area for other restaurants is around the Marina, close to the harbour.
- T-Hotel: An ultra-modern hotel set in central Cagliari, opposite the Lyric Theatre.
- Hotel Regina Margherita: Set in Cagliari’s historic centre, surrounded by restaurants.
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